Washington moves back into a tie for division lead

The Capitals had been in this position before against the Ottawa Senators. Less than a month ago they erased an early deficit on the road and earned their biggest win of the season, snapping the eight-game losing streak that threatened to ruin a season of championship expectations.

Again trailing Ottawa entering the third period of Sunday's contest at Verizon Center, Washington felt a similar sense of urgency. Once again it passed its own test.

Brooks Laich scored off a Senators turnover at 7 minutes, 15 seconds of the third period, the first of three goals in just over six minutes, as the Caps rallied for a 3-1 victory.

With a serious stretch of road games upcoming in the next month these two standings points were far too valuable for Washington to let them slip away against a team mired in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. The Caps (25-14-7, 57 points) ended a three-game losing streak with the win and moved back into a tie for first place in the Southeast Division with Tampa Bay (26-15-5, 57 points)

"[Washington coach] Bruce [Boudreau] addressed it in the second intermission -- that this was a big period, a big game for our season," Laich said. "We have 10 of the next [15] on the road and you have to have this one moving on. If we don't win it now we're looking at losing four in a row and going on the road for three games in the next week. So a good response by our guys in the third period and I think a well-deserved win."

The Caps trailed 1-0 through two periods and had produced just 17 shots on goal. There were some good scoring chances not registered because they didn't even hit Ottawa goalie Brian Elliott. But the Senators had also blocked 17 shots and another 10 missed the mark completely. It wasn't exactly an inspiring performance in the offensive end.

What Washington really needed was a mistake from the Senators. That's exactly what it got. Alex Ovechkin drove hard into the offensive zone and hit Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson. The puck slid to Chris Phillips, who was about to endure a hit himself and in a panic flung the puck up the middle of the ice. Bad idea. Laich was there to intercept it and rip a shot past Elliott (23 saves, 26 shots).

Just 45 seconds later -- after Karl Alzner drew a cross-checking penalty on Ottawa's Milan Michalek -- defenseman John Carlson ripped a faceoff win by Nicklas Backstrom past Elliott to put the Caps on top. Jason Chimera finished the scoring -- three goals in 6:16 -- with a bad-angle shot that banked off Elliott's back and in for a 3-1 advantage.

"Ottawa was tremendous through two periods not allowing hardly anything," Boudreau said. "But perseverance - you keep doing the same thing over and over and eventually we broke through. Because sometimes you get frustrated and you try something different just because something didn't work [and] even though you did it right."